A natural asset
By Barry Sheff, P.E.
Like many New England mill towns, Lisbon has faced significant economic and community challenges as manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Its population has changed, the average income is below the state average, and many residents now commute farther to work, though Lisbon is still one of the youngest communities in Maine. Despite its difficulties, Lisbon has actively pursued projects that foster a sense of community and has been able to leverage grant money to accomplish goals beyond what it could achieve alone.
The latest project on the list is the Androscoggin River Trail, a bike and pedestrian trail that skirts the beautiful Androscoggin River for much of its length. “The trail provides a number of benefits,” explained Lisbon Town Engineer Ryan Leighton. “It completes the alternative transportation connection between the three most developed areas of town, including a direct connection between Main Street in Lisbon Falls and Lisbon Village, and is very close to Lisbon’s public schools. The easy access provided by the trail to scenic recreation right in town is also a big benefit.”
The new trail extends just over two miles from the existing Papermill and Ricker Farm Trails at its north end, and terminates in Lisbon Falls Village within sight of the public library and a short walk from a community center building. The trail terrain varies and includes a section that follows a rail line, a section along the shore of the Androscoggin River, and a final section that passes near three separate schools. Because of its proximity to local schools and the fact that it creates a single, continuous alternative transportation corridor between several densely-developed areas of town, the trail project was eligible for funding through the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) Quality Community Program. During the conceptual phase of the project, the project team evaluated the Quality Community Program and determined the project was a good candidate in two funding categories: Transportation Enhancement and Safe Routes to School.
Woodard & Curran, the firm responsible for project planning, design and permitting, prepared the grant application to support the town, and secured approximately $1.4 million of the total $1.7 million project cost; $300,000 in matching funds were provided by the town.
“The town’s Trails Commission was active in the planning and design process”, says Project Manager David Senus, P.E., L.P.A., “and their collaboration with us will make the trail a great asset for the community.”
The commission expressed strong interest in aligning the trail close to the Androscoggin River to promote the aesthetic and recreational opportunities offered by the river. To accomplish this goal, the design team needed to consider a number of physical, regulatory and land rights issues, including impacts to natural resources, the rail line along the edge of the river, and land ownership rights associated with railroad property. Working with the commission, the town engineer, MaineDOT and MaineDEP, the project team developed a design that crosses the rail and closely follows the river’s edge for roughly one-quarter of its length.
With funding secured, the hard work began to finalize the route, obtain permits and ensure the end result matched the town’s vision.
Permitting wasn’t a straightforward process. In addition to the environmental permits, the project required ntwo separate at-grade rail crossings approved by MaineDOT. Fortunately, everything lined up thanks to sound engineering and continuous support from the town.
Woodard & Curran anticipates construction of the project will be completed in 2013, and looks forward to celebrating the opening of the trail with members of the Lisbon’s Trails Commission, the public and the funding agencies.
About the author: Barry Sheff, P.E., is a senior vice president at Woodard & Curran. He was principal-in-charge on the Androscoggin River Trail project. Learn more, www.woodardcurran.com